Thabiso Mahlape

Publisher, BlackBird Books

Thabiso Mahlape calls herself Oprah Morrison on the Twitter streets. “Oprah Winfrey and Toni Morrison both inspire me in different ways: Toni started out her career as a black publisher committed to changing the dominant narratives of the time. Oprah is a glamourous powerhouse who has been able to build an empire from absolutely nothing. There might be an Oprah Winfrey and a Toni Morrison in the world but there is no Oprah Morrison. And that is what I am about.”
The engineering graduate-cum-publisher has loved books from a very early age and she always knew that the beautiful world of books would be part of her life somehow. Her publishing career began in 2010, when she secured an internship at Jacana, one of South Africa’s biggest publishing houses. In the space of seven years with Jacana she has overseen the publishing of a number of books and has launched her own imprint called BlackBird Books. BlackBird Books is committed to the telling of black people’s stories in an unapologetic, oh-so-necessary and somewhat cathartic way.
Mahlape lists McIntosh Polela’s My Father My Monster as the most important book she has published so far. The book tells the story of former television journalist McIntosh Polela’s quest to find out the truth about his mother, who was brutally killed when he was a child.
“That book sold over 15 000 copies, but beyond that, it represented for me the first time where I saw that there really is a space for stories that speak to the conditions facilitating our existence, and that these stories deserve to be told.”
Thabiso believes that the South African publishing industry is as dynamic as it has ever been, and that the changes currently happening in the literary landscape make it a really exciting space to work in.
A columnist for The Sowetan, she plans to collect her works and publish a book of her own in the near future, once she finally finds the time.
— Nomonde Ndwalaza

Twitter: @thabisobonita